Anonymous Career Advice

Anonymous Career Advice – Company Breaking Apart?

This week’s career advice is also business advice.

The Big Question: Is My Company Breaking Apart?

Dear Focus, there are a number of people leaving my company, we used to be so close, how can I keep my colleagues with me and complete our mission? 
— “Anon” Startup Founder  

This is common in every business, regardless of size, people leave businesses for many different reasons, one of the main reasons is career progress, the other main reason is the company has changed or changing in a direction staff just don’t align to. 

The Great Resignation?

We are about to see what some people are referencing as ‘the great resignation’ is a large number of talent will be looking to refresh their roles and change roles for career progression. 

You are likely experiencing some of this and then a blend of a changing culture.

Communications Is King, Queen & Everything Inbetween

As a startup founder, you were likely close to the team and then had to move away or actively decided to distance yourself from the team or departments. 

Being deliberate in this step was important however with focused comms around this move this can cause friction and disconnection. 

Questions to ask yourself:  

  • Are there patterns happening? 
  • Are there key internal influencers who have left the business? 
  • Has our company culture taken a hit with the change? 
  • Were we too close? 
  • When working remotely did teams drift apart? 
  • Have we brought in a new layer of management recently?
  • Is performance suffering? 
  • What motivates my current team? 
  • Is there data to show that staff are hitting the time-based limit? 
  • Are exit interviews highlighting any outliers? 
  • Which was the biggest change you made and how long before staff left? 
  • Am I struggling to hire? 

If there are patterns and data suggesting there were some steps that might have created disconnection, ask yourself are you moving forward as a business and are you creating something people will want to join in the short term and in the long term. If yes, this might be a business phase you fight through some of the growing pains. 

Business growth can be hard and many times has to be seen as a marathon, not a sprint. 

Team Not Family

Although this came under question, the CEO of Shopify Tobias Lütke suggested that your business is a team, not a family. It is likely time you consider the internal framing of your business and understand that a team comparison is far more representative than a family. Despite it might feeling like a dysfunctional family, families particularly in the startup space create connections when broken are too hard to rebuild or readdress. 

Shopify Email Quote
“Shopify, like any other for-profit company, is not a family,” “The very idea is preposterous. You are born into a family. You never choose it, and they can’t un-family you. It should be massively obvious that Shopify is not a family but I see people, even leaders, casually use terms like ‘Shopifam’ which will cause the members of our teams (especially junior ones that have never worked anywhere else) to get the wrong impression.”

“The dangers of ‘family thinking’ are that it becomes incredibly hard to let poor performers go. Shopify is a team, not a family,”

Learn From Success Startup Leaders

Remember businesses that are close have to have agreed leadership principles, one important tip to borrow from Whitney Wolfe Herd CEO at Bumble, is that you are making the decisions for the best of the business and if you are friends this should not hinder your judgement and actually be best for the business. 

Good luck and remember even the best and top talent leave the biggest and well-paying companies. 

It is how you react and lead in creating the best business for your customers, shareholders and importantly for your current teams and talent coming into your business.

Danny Denhard 

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